I have a gut feeling that 2008 will cry for a new breed of IT people called User Experience Professional. These people should be experienced professional Web designers with some knowledge of programming. I already see some serious changes in the process of designing front ends for such boring business Web applications as pension plan management system or a stock trading application.
In the past, a group of programmers would quickly put together (to the best of their design abilities) a wireframe of an application to be developed, discuss the functionality with the users and would start coding. Now it’s slowly changing. Recently, I’ve been running Adobe Flex training for one of the major Wall Street firm. Java programmers were in the audience, we’ve discussed specifics of the integration of the new front end with their J2EE systems, and then I asked them if they took care of the screen design yet. And they showed me a design document. I was speechless – this was clearly the best screen design document I’ve ever seen in my 25 year career in IT. Very neatly done, eye-candy looking screens color schemes were impeccable. They’ve hired a third party firm that does just this – design of user experience.
With emerging of such development tools as Adobe Flex and Microsoft Silverlight we’ll see more people from an artistic crowd (Photoshop Illustrator, AfterEffects, Flash Professional) starting getting their hands dirty with more developer targeted tools like Adobe Flex Builder or Microsoft Expression Studio.
As of today, many Web designers suffer from the lack of knowledge of programming languages (i.e. ActionScript 3) that may be required to get hired for the next gig.
While the merger of Adobe and Macromedia was made in heaven, the skills of developers and designers are not merging that easily and Adobe has to pay more attention to creating some bridging tools that would allow designers fill comfortable in Flex Builder. Microsoft has done a better job in this regard – I’ve seen a presentation nade by a Web designer (not a programmer) of their Express Studio. He felt there at home. Microsoft has their own challenges though – how to bring predominantly Adobe-ish designers to their RIA and User Experience development tools.
Slowly but surely the most active Web designers will start learning development tools. They’ll do it for a very simple and pragmatic reason – to increase their employability.
I’ve created a new users group on Rich Internet Applications under the umbrella of NYSIA – New York Software Industry Association (we’ll have our first meeting on October 9 ). While most of the times I’ll be inviting software developers to present on such emerging technologies and techniques as AJAX, Adobe Flex, Microsoft Silverlight, JavaFX, OpenLaszlo, I’ll definitely would love to have there presentations on User Experience at it best circa 2007.
I am very much interested in learning some tricks of the trade of these mysterious people called Designers. If you are a User Experience Expert and would like to speak at this new RIA users group, please let me know.